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Showing posts from May, 2016

Who Hates Amish and Mennonites? World War II Veterans and their Families

When I moved to Lancaster County in 1980 to go to college, I was surprised to find people who hated the Amish and Mennonites.  Who could hate people who drive buggies and farm with mules?

World War II veterans.

From 1981 to 1985 I worked on the dock at the Yellow Freight break-bulk terminal in East Petersburg, just north of the city of Lancaster.  As I got to know my co-workers, they mostly fit in three groups:

Former athletes, either amateur or college, with a career-ending injury, but who could still load trucks.Vietnam War veterans and other former service members.Farmers who needed the extra money a Teamsters job provided.  We made $12/hour. It was the third group who first told me about how their father or their uncle or their neighbor served in World War II and how the family ended up selling the farm while the soldier was away at the war.  The buyer of the farm was often an Amish or Mennonite farmer who did not have to serve in the military and made a lot of money growing food…

For Most Countries, At Most Times, People Looked at Military Service with Dread

C.S. Lewis, best known for The Chronicles of Narnia served in World War I in the British Army.  He was a citizen of Northern Ireland and was not subject to the draft, but volunteered to serve. He was badly wounded twice and between battles lived in cold, muddy trenches.  During the first year of World War II, Lewis spoke to a pacifist society at Oxford with the title "Why I Am Not a Pacifist."  Most of the speech is technical, but he gave a haunting summary.  

He describes the life of a soldier on active duty in a war:

All that we fear from all the kinds of adversity, severally, is collected together in the life of a soldier on active service. 

Like sickness, it threatens pain and death. 

Like poverty, it threatens ill lodging, cold, heat, thirst, and hunger. 

Like slavery, it threatens toil, humiliation, injustice, and arbitrary rule. 

Like exile, it separates you from all you love. 

Like the gallies, it imprisons you at close quarters with uncongenial companions. 

It threatens eve…

Army, Adoption, Racing and Faith: Don’t Start Unless You Are Ready to Suffer

Beginning in 1971, Army recruiters advertised “Be All You Can Be” to pitch enlisting in the Army.They used just five words with thirteen letters to suggest that you can fulfill your dreams, learn a career and otherwise let that wonderful person inside you bloom and grow in the fertile soil the Army would provide.
They did not say you could also be maimed or killed.Every soldier is a rifleman and the Army teaches you first to be a rifleman before they teach you turbojet engine maintenance or auto repair.
I quite obviously love the Army.I love bicycle racing.And I love my adopted children.But I am also the sort of person who thinks a good life is impossible without risk and suffering.So when people ask me if they should enlist, race or adopt, I tell them, “Yes!”But if they ask, as has happened many times with racing, “Is there a way I can race without crashing?” I suggest they take up knitting.
I give the same advice when someone asks about joining the Army. “Yes, enlist!”But I suggest…

Machiavelli on Leadership: Book 13 of 2016, The Prince

Politicians are leaders.  The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli has much to say about leadershipas he talks about politics.  Rather than try to review this gold mine of leadership in one post, I am going to spread this review over several posts talking about Machiavelli's many maxims on how leadership works.
Early in the book, Machiavelli tells the reader that those who want to understand a valley climb a mountain and those who want to understand mountains look up from the valley.  With this he says leaders understand the people and the people understand leaders.  
My view of leadership, like Machiavelli's, is from the valley looking up.  I was never higher than a staff sergeant in the Army and turned down any job above manager as a civilian.  
But looking up, I could see things differently than the person in charge.  Machiavelli says that a leader must be sure that the staff directly reporting to her be completely loyal to her, or she should dismiss them.  Machiavelli says the c…

Packing Up My Army Uniforms, and Giving Them to My Kids

Kelsey and Nigel in my old uniforms.   Kelsey is wearing a dress green jacket from the 70s, Nigel is recent camouflage.
Today was the first drill weekend I missed since September of 2007.  This is my discharge month and I am officially a civilian.  So I packed the uniforms, hats, gloves, medals and other gear I still have into a footlocker.

In addition, my son Nigel and our Host-Daughter Kelsey thought they would love to have some of the clothes for parties, etc.  So the footlocker that went to the basement isn't even full.  I still have the new Army fitness uniform in my closet and the shirt we wore with body armor.

My sons are also claiming boots for fashionable teenage wear.  Some days it is hard to believe I am out of the Army.  Some days I can't believe I was in so recently.

General Problem: When the Division Commander Wants Branding

During Annual Training 2014, I had the delightful experience of using my civilian public relations skills as a soldier. The fuelers of the my unit set up a refueling site at the Pottsville Airport.  I called the Pottsville Republican Herald and talked to a reporter who was interested in the military.  I gave him dates and times that he could get pictures and videos of Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters refueling at the airport.

He showed up with a photographer and video cameras.  The commander of the refueling unit showed him all around the site.  The result was a the front-page, above-the-fold story and photos you see above.  I was elated.  I bought a half dozen copies.  The reporter had also posted videos on the newspaper's web site.


The day after the story was published I was in the State Public Affairs Office on Fort Indiantown Gap when Major General John Gronski walked in with a copy of the newspaper in his hand.  I could see he was upset.  The two majors in the of…

Book 11 of 2016: "Underground Man" by Fyodor Dostoevsky, a chilling portrait of cowardice.

When I first believed in Christianity, I was in the Army in Germany in the 70s.The only Church was the Army Chapel system.So I read widely and listened to sermons to figure out what exactly being a Christian meant.Among the many cassettes I listened to were sermons by southern revival preachers.After hearing dozens of these sermons I began sense the rhythms and themes that these stirring speeches shared.
The best sermons began in sin, descended almost to Hell, then rose up on the wings of God’s Grace.After a while, it became clear that, although every preacher was a terrible sinner, they only committed sins that a conservative southern audience considered manly.All were fornicators, but they were fornicators with lovely, willing women.Many told stories of drug use, but more told stories of being drug dealers.If they drank, they could hold their liquor.If they fought, they won or were beaten to the point of death by several attackers.If they stole, they robbed banks and stores and drug …

Swiftboat Veterans for Truth and Viagra: Hard Messages to Soft Audiences

Many pundits are calling the current Presidential election with too much confidence.  Politics in America is war limited to words, but it is war. And the outcome of war often turns on surprise: hitting the enemy hard from a place no one saw coming.  From the arrows at Agincourt defeating the French knights to the Scipio beating Hannibal and the Carthaginians at Zama, surprise wins.  And this fall, a surprise no one sees coming may make one of the candidates a winner.  In my view, a surprise attack on John Kerry led to his defeat in 2004.  
More than a decade ago, I was watching a TV and a commercial for Viagra came on the screen.I was not paying attention until the warning about side effects came on.Then I could not stop laughing.I called a couple of friends who were in advertising and we laughed more.
Until that moment, every drug commercial used an auctioneer for the mandatory health warning at the end of the ad.In this commercial, the side effects in the middle of the commercial i…